These tips have been gathered from individual interviews with career, college, and job experts, part of our Q&A with Career Experts series.
Hiring managers like to avoid risk, according to career development therapist Janet Scarborough in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “They like to hire people about whom they already know something, even if the connection is as tenuous as someone within the company knows someone else who recommended the hire. Hiring managers like to hire people who seem clear about what they want to do and have some previous success in doing it, because the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. That’s why career changers can dramatically increase their marketability by getting some experience in whatever they want to do next, whether through a part-time job, volunteer work, or project-based work in a class,” Scarborough advises.
The biggest clues to self-discovery come from re-visiting childhood interests, noted author Gale Montgomery in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Children are typically free from limitations and go about their daily business in an enviable uninhibited way. Observe a group of children, and you will inevitably begin to identify character traits and activities that give clues as to how they are gifted. Occupations involving those gifts typically are the ones in which the most passion and joy are found,” Montgomery relates. “The trick is to stay focused and not be discouraged by set-backs. Steven Spielberg’s father gave him a camera at a very young age and he knew that he wanted to make film his career. When he was denied entrance into the prestigious UCLA film school, he simply took a different route and went to work for one of the studios. Leonardo DiCaprio was a cute little guy who enjoyed getting attention. Unfortunately, his antics got him fired from Romper Room at the age of 5,” Montgomery notes.
Companies who use behaviorally based interview questions often do so after an analysis of what makes individuals successful in their organization, according to career counselor Andrea Dine in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Therefore armed with careful company research and a job description, a candidate should be able to predict those skills that the company will be seeking with relative accuracy. I work with clients on their research skills and advise them to identify five skills they believe the company will be seeking. I then recommend that for each skill they identify three examples from their experience,” Dine says.
Because communication is growing increasingly global, a person’s career network can include persons from a much larger geographic area, observed career development therapist Janet Scarborough in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “This expansion can be really exciting and fun. I would not have met [QuintZine editor] Kathy Hansen, for instance, if I had not participated in ProfessionalJobTalk, a networking forum for career-development professionals. The Internet also offers a tremendous opportunity for free agents and entrepreneurs to sell their products and services directly to consumers. When I first began my career counseling practice, I built a simple Web site. Most of my first clients found me via the Web. It was a rewarding, inexpensive way for me to start my business,” Scarborough notes.
When looking for a job out of state, it is a good idea to check out the local colleges’ career-planning Web sites, advised career counselor Doris Flaherty in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “As always, some Websites are more informative than others, but I usually come up with several good leads for the geographical area of interest. Any college usually has more focus on its surrounding area since the majority of the graduates will find work there,” Flaherty says.
The secret to successful job-hunting can be described in five words, according to author Gale Montgomery in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers: Have a desire to work. Montgomery says that having the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities for a job or career is certainly a must, “but I have heard employers says that they would gladly take a less qualified person to get someone who had a genuine desire to learn and do the work. Other intangible but greatly desired traits by the employer are attitude and communication – both verbally and in writing. ‘Attitude’ is hard to define, but if you look forward to working with one person and find creative ways to avoid working with another, the attitudes of the two people will probably have a significant impact upon your response,” Montgomery says.
The best way for a jobseeker to discover his/her career passion varies depending on his/her temperament and preferred style, observed career development therapist Janet Scarborough in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Some clients can make great decisions after reading about many different career paths, while others need to do something experiential with each option in order to make a decision. Some people need to do more exploration, while others need to muster the courage to commit to something. Some clients need to raise their expectations, while others need to learn to tolerate imperfection and the normal routine frustrations inherent in any option. Career assessment is usually very helpful, but the interpretation is often most useful in the context of a helping relationship. Data alone can be more confusing than clarifying, which is why I am not enthusiastic about most online career assessment. My experience has shown me that the most valuable part of the assessment often comes from the process of exploring ambivalence, contradictions, and inconsistencies between the real self and the ideal self. Most online career assessments fail miserably when evaluating according to the ethical standards of good test administration and interpretation — two notable exceptions are the Self-Directed-Search (http://www.self-directed-search.com) and CareerHub (http://www.careerhub.org),” Scarborough says.
Simple misspelled words, writing mechanics and the inability to articulate the most basic thought have proven to be some of the worst nightmares with employees, noted author Gale Montgomery in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “I constantly stress with clients to get friends to interview them, role play. I admonish them not to wait until the interview to begin attempting to speak in grammatically correct sentences,” Montgomery says.
The most disturbing trend that I see in job-hunting continues to be far too much emphasis on the “job market” rather than the individual, according to author Gale Montgomery in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “By placing the emphasis on the job market, job seekers tend to look for the occupations that are paying the most, gimmicks and scripts. Montgomery observes. ” ‘What key words should I use on my resume?’ ‘What should my objective say?’ When you are trying to sell a product with nothing more than a script, you put yourself at a disadvantage and waste the buyer’s time. By placing more emphasis on the individual and his/her gifts/talents and ambitions, it becomes considerably easier to write an objective that is meaningful and true; that objective succinctly articulated both verbally and on a resume will speak volumes about the job seeker’s preparation and ethics — more than all of the memorized key words, buzz words and interviewing scripts. Employers are not impressed when every applicant responds to the questions with the same scripted answers. An applicant who is genuinely interested in the position, has taken the time to link personal attributes to the needs of the organization, and responds with honesty and enthusiasm will find the right career opportunity — not just a job,” Montgomery notes.
“While it is true that you can never know for certain what questions you may be asked in an interview, that is no reason to not prepare!” advises career counselor Doris Flaherty in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “The more you have considered relevant examples of work-related skills and behaviors from your past experiences, the more likely you are to present yourself in a confident, professional manner, and the less likely you are to slip up and share something you wish you hadn’t! When explaining how to prepare for the behavioral interview, I tell people to consider some of the main competency areas that employers are likely to ask about and come up with specific examples of themselves demonstrating these in the past. Work, activities, volunteer experiences . . . it is all fair game in locating these real-life examples. I encourage them to recall both successes and failures, as they may be asked to share either. Some of those main competency areas include: Management style, leadership ability, team work, going above and beyond, decision-making, communication skills, problem solving, dealing with difficult people, and others. When formulating their stories, I recommend utilizing the well-known STAR technique. Briefly describe the Situation or Task, explain the specific Action taken, and share the Results of that action. The main cautionary note is to stay specific; do not generalize. Employers asking behavioral-style questions are looking to hear about a specific event that occurred in your past,” Flaherty notes.
Applicants who have the benefit of good career counseling enter the employment market seeking a “career” rather than a “job,” noted author Gale Montgomery in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “They are more lik ly to know their strengths, interests and limitations nd be more focused. All of wh ch maximize the chances of a mutually beneficial work experience for both the employer and the employee,” Montgomery says.
The number of companies using behaviorally based interviewing is growing significantly, observed career counselor Andrea Dine in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Though companies do not always exclusively use behaviorally based interview questions, we’ve found that nearly all companies interviewing on campus use behaviorally based interview questions.”
A major myth about job-hunting is that the Internet has created a climate in which a passive job searcher can post his/her resume on Friday and wait for the offers to come rolling in on Monday, according to career development therapist Janet Scarborough in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “This kind of response happens only for persons with highly marketable skills and a documented track record of success using those skills. For most people, there still exists the need to build relationships to increase the probability of being in the right place at the right time to land the best job for you. This is especially true for career changers,” Scarborough observes.
The real beauty of learning how to respond behaviorally is that even if the question is not a behavior-based question, it can still be answered with a real-life example, advised career counselor Doris Flaherty in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “This approach helps give the candidates credibility and allows them to separate themselves from everyone else, leaving an imprint of them on the interviewer’s mind,” Flaherty notes.
The first step in achieving work-life integration is to become very clear about what you want, career development therapist Janet Scarborough pointed out in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “The second step is to develop very marketable skills so that you have bargaining power. And the third step is to become adept at negotiating, because you won’t often get the reward of work-life integration if you aren’t willing to ask for it. The more solid are your professional strengths, the better will be your ability to create a life on your terms. If you are employed by an organization and your abilities are contributing to the bottom line in an integral way, they will be much more likely to accept your insistence that you need a schedule that includes telecommuting or flextime. Similarly, if you are self-employed and you have worked to ensure that your skills are top-notch and you can effectively market them to create demand, you have the freedom to put limits on your availability so you can pursue a balanced life,” Scarborough advises.
The traditional-aged student population tends to believe that they will not/cannot know what type of job they will want until they receive some offers to choose from, observed career counselor Doris Flaherty in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “What I try to impart is the understanding that employers aren’t interested in candidates who are ‘shopping around.’ They want to hire candidates who have specifically sought them out, who have done the homework and already know that they want to work for that particular company doing a particular type of work. By taking part in career-planning activities before trying to conduct a job search, one can identify one or two career areas of interest and focus on those. Some may see this approach as limiting, but having a focus and the ability to effectively market yourself in conjunction with that focus will actually result in more offers than taking pot-shots at any advertised position you see,” Flaherty advises.
One of the big myths about job-hunting is that the more general you are about what you want to do, the more opportunities you will have, noted career development therapist Janet Scarborough in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “In fact, it is just the opposite. Simply clarifying a specific career goal and adding a focused positioning to your resume does wonders to increase marketability for many people. Hiring managers will not take the time to determine for you what a good match should be with your interests, values, and abilities” Scarborough observes.
Read more tips from our Quintessential Career Experts series in Career Expert Quick and Quintessential Career & Job Tips — #4.
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